Republican pushes VA on contracts for veteran-owned businesses

Republican pushes VA on contracts for veteran-owned businesses
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A top Republican wants to make sure the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is following a Supreme Court ruling that directs agencies to follow laws to increase the number of federal contracts to veteran-owned small businesses (VOSBs).

In a letter to Thomas Leney, executive director of the VA Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) urged the VA to embrace the ruling as a way to reach more “qualified VOSBs." Coffman is chair of the House Veterans Affairs' Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

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In June, the court unanimously sided with Kingdomware Technologies Inc. in a case against the VA. The web software company argued that the agency should have given it priority as a service-disabled VOSB under the Rule of Two. The company was bidding to provide an emergency notification service for four medical centers.

The Rule of Two under the Veterans Benefits, Health Care and Information Technology Act of 2006 says a contracting officer “shall award contracts” by restricting competition to veteran-owned small businesses if the officer reasonably expects that at least two businesses will submit offers and that “the award can be made at a fair and reasonable price.”

"Many of the 'mundane low-cost or repetitive items that VA cited in its Kindgdomware briefs, such as griddles and food slicers, are exactly the sort of products hundreds of VOSBs are well qualified to supply,' " Coffman said in his letter. “VA has repeatedly been subject to protests as a result of not setting these procurements aside.”

Coffman raised concerns with the VA’s interim implementation policy, which says the VA will implement the court’s ruling in every context where the law applies and would rescind any inconsistent guidance.

He asked the VA to clarify in what instances it believes the ruling would not apply and if it plans to apply the Rule of Two to smaller purchases. Coffman asked the agency to respond by July 22.